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The New Yorker

The title of this exhibition of three series of photographs, “Once Upon a Time, 1981-2011,” aptly conjures a fairy tale: Sherman’s pictures are rife with gendered archetypes, rich backstories, impending doom, and melancholic longing. The “Centerfolds,” from the nineteen-eighties, evoke damsels, if not exactly in distress, then in vulnerable reverie. The “History Portraits,” from the nineties, provocatively garble art-historical painting styles, depicting aristocratic and religious subjects to emphasize their grotesque qualities. In the largest works here, the “Society Portraits,” from 2008, the shape-shifting artist assumes the eccentric glamour of women of a certain age. The severe, coiffed looks of Sherman’s characters in these later works are poignantly spot-on. They look right at home on the Upper East Side, amid the ladies who lunch.

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